Christopher Pearse Cranch

(1815-1892 / the USA)

Bird Language


One day in the bluest of summer weather,
Sketching under a whispering oak,
I heard five bobolinks laughing together
Over some ornithological joke.

What the fun was I couldn't discover.
Language of birds is a riddle on earth.
What could they find in whiteweed and clover
To split their sides with such musical mirth?

Was it some prank of the prodigal summer,
Face in the cloud or voice in the breeze,
Querulous catbird, woodpecker drummer,
Cawing of crows high over the trees?

Was it soame chipmunk's chatter, or weasel
Under the stone-wall stealthy and sly?
Or was the joke about me at my easel,
Trying to catch the tints of the sky?

Still they flew tipsily, shaking all over,
Bubbling with jollity, brimful of glee,
While I sat listening deep in the clover,
Wondering what their jargon could be.

'Twas but the voice of a morning the brightest
That ever dawned over yon shadowy hills;
'Twas but the song of all joy that is lightest,-
Sunshine breaking in laughter and trills.

Vain to conjecture the words they are singing;
Only by tones can we follow the tune
In the full heart of the summer fields ringing,
Ringing the rhythmical gladness of June!

Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010
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